So, strike one, two and three. Was I out? I was looking for one user friendly, all inclusive definition of addiction. I wanted everything in one box so I could best help those at the Rescue Mission who struggled with addiction. I wanted something to be simple enough to communicate to those in our programs, yet thorough enough to educate the outside world about what we were doing here. I wanted something scientific yet personal. Was it out there?Then I remembered, I work at a Rescue Mission.We have been doing this kind of thing for years. We must have our own beliefs about addictions. There must be a “mission friendly” addiction pamphlet out there somewhere.
The Genesis Process
So I went looking. That is when I found the Genesis Process. It was, and is, very popular in the rescue mission world for being a one-size fits all addiction recovery program. It is used by missions around the country, but it is most popular in northern California, Oregon and Washington. The process is popular because it covers a lot of the basics: family history, core beliefs, relapse prevention and anger management.There in the beginning, actually in the introduction, I found the following sentence: “All addictions are anesthetics that do primarily the same thing: they push unwanted thoughts, feeling and memories temporarily out of your awareness.” Or as I like to rephrase it “An addiction is anything you use to avoid a thought, feeling or memory.”This was good. I liked the fact that it links addictions and anesthetics. This was a theme that I was beginning to see in the men I was working with. Pain and dealing with it. Everyone in the program, without exception, had a lot of pain that they were trying to navigate. A life of alcoholism leads to lots of court cases, fines, lost relationships and financial hardship.
The Cycle of Pain
Now if I were to imagine myself as a judgmental outsider (I would be dressed as a British judge, wig and all) I could hear myself saying something like, “Serves ya’ right. That is what you get for being an alcoholic. Just stop drinking and you would not have pain that you need to avoid.” Okay. I get that. But remember, “just stopping” may not be as easy as we think. Brain chemistry affected by addiction is not working like it should. There are deep psychological issues here. They need to be addressed. Also, the more I heard the stories of my guys, I realized there was a whole lot of pain way before they ever started drinking or using. Pain of abusive families, broken homes and incredibly unstable childhoods. Things that were done to them out of no fault of their own. Things children should never have to deal with or see, they saw. Then, years later, when there was no hope and no relief, alcohol came around and offered a temporary rest. Addiction, in every case, is born is a place of suffering. Another thing I liked about the Genesis Process definition is that it is fairly open ended. It says anything we use to avoid a thought, feeling or memory is essentially an “anesthetic addiction”. So, the workaholic is in the same boat as the alcoholic. The adrenaline junkie and the methadone addict are not that far apart. They are just choosing different methods of avoiding their pain. But at the end of the day, they are doing basically the same thing. If anyone is engaged in an activity that helps them avoid a part of life on a regular basis, they have the ability to become addicted. This is not to say that we don’t need times of rest and reprieve. We should take advantage of these times and let someone protect us in our brokenness. However, we should come out of these times energized and ready to engage with our struggles, not fueled up to run from them even more. Healthy rest will lead us into relationship and engagement, not away from it.
The Search Continues
Even with all I liked about this definition of addiction, it was not complete in and of itself.. The broad definition is great, but it really depends on the individual to know when they are being unhealthy. In this holiday season, how can we recognize if we are staying busy out of a drive to avoid dealing with uncomfortable family problems, or if we are trying to celebrate all the blessings we have? When we are in the middle of it, we may not be the best judge. One step closer on the journey to understanding addiction, and yet not arrived. My search continues...